The history of Breckenridge Lodge starts with Malcolm Redmond.
Malcolm grew up just outside of Christchurch on the family farm in a town called Methven. His mother, Anne, was known as good cook, and she encouraged his interest in food by suggesting he work in a bakery and then a restaurant during summer breaks and school holidays.
At age 17 he was accepted into the Royal New Zealand Air Force Culinary School where he was trained in the London City and Guilds qualification certifications. After two decades of serving in the RNZAF where he catered to officers, dignitaries, Royals, and as the head chef of Government House, he retired to civilian life. Here he worked in or ran the kitchens of The George Hotel, Huka Falls, Te Awa Winery and Church Road Winery.
After years of looking for the perfect location, Malcolm Redmond found this section of land overlooking Chardonnay vines and bought it as a bare grass paddock in 2000.
Breckenridge Lodge was purpose built and designed by Malcolm and a team of local builders. Specifically designed with only 5 rooms to ensure personal service, the vision was to create a place where guests could feel close to the exciting attractions of the Hawke’s Bay while being spoilt amidst the surrounding picturesque views.
He wanted to create a place of relaxation and luxury where he could grow and source his own food, have time to play with exciting seasonal combinations, and showcase his creations to a small number of people with whom he could interact. Often in the slower winter months, he travels abroad and works a few weeks in some award-winning kitchen sometimes with a Michelin star chef to keep his skills current and his creative juices flowing.
Malcolm planted all the gardens at Breckenridge, which cover well over 2 acres of the property. The organic kitchen gardens provide up to 90% of the produce used in the daily menus. What is not grown on the property is sourced as locally and organically as possible. Malcolm’s reputation for excellence has cultivated respectful and supportive relationships with several local growers and producers.
The ornamental gardens Malcolm planted have matured and are meant to be explored. Paths meander both up to the highest part of the property where the orchard, chickens, pizza oven, and lavender garden are located, and down around to the pond with several hidden seated areas along the way. These are perfect places to sit and unwind or simply observe and enjoy some of the 30 species of birdlife spotted on the property.
Malcolm has also been passionate about wine and has been collecting and cellaring wine for over 30 years. Breckenridge is perfectly situated in the midst of 70 plus vineyards and over 30 cellar doors. One of the best ways to try a selection of Hawke’s Bay wines is to partake in the optional wine pairing offered each night with dinner. Every wine has been researched, hand-picked, and purchased by Malcolm and Ellie.
Ellie came to Breckenridge well after Malcolm had already established the luxury lodge. Originally from the United States, she grew up in the Washington DC area. She always loved children and animals and became a primary school teacher after graduating from Loyola University in Baltimore Maryland. Her mother had many talents, but cooking was not one. Most food served at the Zugel home came from cans or the freezer, but Ellie always liked good food and can recall what she refers to as “life changing food experiences” such as being introduced to Brie cheese at a family Christmas party or Filet Mignon cooked medium rare when a friend’s mother treated them out to dinner.
After teaching in the DC area for over 22 years, Ellie took a yearlong sabbatical. She decided to head to New Zealand for a 9-month adventure. Ellie came to Breckenridge to help Malcolm for a few of his busiest months of the season. Having met about a decade earlier through mutual friends in the states, Malcolm and Ellie were only “friends of friends” and through communication this seemed like a logical thing – Malcolm would have another casual helper at the lodge, and she would have a base to call “home” as she traveled around NZ.
One of Ellie’s favorite sayings is, “If you want to make God laugh – tell Him your plans.” Original plans changed drastically as they quickly became friends, then fell in love, and eventually got married – all at Breckenridge Lodge. They now run the lodge as a team and have never been happier.